The lost art of hand painted signs appearing in Monroe
Artists see hand-painted advertising as a way to help revitalized downtowns

Spill the Beans on Millpond Parkway in Monroe.

By Christine Urio
MONROE — Jordan Robinson and his girlfriend Julie Armagost are literally out painting the town — or towns— with their hand painted signs for local business owners.
Currently living in Warwick, the business partners are sign painters who recently moved from Salt Lake City, Utah, and getting a lot of exposure in Monroe.
“My girlfriend and I travel a lot and have lived all over the country,” Robinson said. “Most recently, after we lived in my hometown Salt Lake City for a few years, we decided it was time to move on and we chose to come out here to where Julie grew up so we’d be able to spend time with her family — not to mention, we both love the Hudson Valley.”
Mural art and lettering designThe two said they’ve had an amazing response from the community and local business owners about their passion for traditional hand-painted signs, a largely lost art form that has recently been seeing a revival around the country.
“We can help bring back an artistic feel to the community that will hopefully help bring people in to businesses and downtowns,” Armagost said.
With their new business, Lettersmith Signs, they have been painting signs around the Village of Monroe, most recently for Precision Barbershop, Spill The Beans Cafe and Monroe Auto (HH Auto Corp).
“There are several other businesses in the Lakes Road area that have expressed interest in having their windows painted, or having other sign or lettering work done,” said Robinson.
Robinson was inspired to get into this form of artwork because he has always had a fascination with mural art and lettering design.
“That passion has developed over the years into where I’m at today,” he said. “I feel incredibly lucky to have discovered sign painting and to be able to make a business and my career out of my passions.”
The duo has visions to help revitalize local downtown areas with hand painted art, since signage can help a business succeed.
“Signs are an essential centerpiece for any business because it obviously needs to be functional, letting people know the name and purpose of the business,” Armagost said. “But beyond that, signage can help a business stand out from its neighbors and other local competitors, help customers remember their storefront, or become intrigued enough to step inside and check out the store’s products.”
... before vinyl took over ...The partners feel that it is important to revive this lost art of hand painted signs because historically, all signs used to be hand painted, since that was all that was available before vinyl took over in the 1980s.
“With new printing technology, making signs has become comparatively very cheap and easy, but, at the expense of the authentic, personalized craftsmanship that traditional sign painters had been perfecting for centuries,” said Robinson. “Not to mention, vinyl signs and stickers do not age well, needing to be replaced often, and very obviously lack the local and artisan quality that handmade signs inherently have with all of their tiny imperfections and personal artistic touches.”
Sense of communal ownershipLettersmith Signs has received positive responses from local business owners who believe this art can help build a sense of community, Armagost said.
“While a hand crafted sign can be an advertisement, it often performs similarly to any other public piece of art,” she added. “People stop to look at it, talk to each other, and eventually they can take on a sense of communal ownership and pride as with a downtown statue, also helping liven up storefronts and downtowns.”
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